The one that is completely Bonkers?
Spamalot opened at The Palace Theatre in the West End in 2006 and played out in the heart of theatre land for three years. Since then the production which is based on the series of movies and sketched by the team of Monty Python has opened in eleven other countries and is currently on a UK tour. I caught the production as it rolled into Richmond at the Richmond Theatre.
Now I was fortunate to see the lavish and quite wonderfully bonkers production when it was in the West End in it’s first year, which makes writing this review quite difficult as to compare the productions would be unfair, particularly as both are so different in terms of setting, cast, and overall experience.
The first thing that strikes me about this version of this production is the set. The pop up book design by Hugh Durrant, screams touring production as its simplistic design of a two sided castle and backdrop do little more than to create a level to for the cast to stand on, and little more. it’s a shame that a production that is so entirely bonkers isn’t given a set for the cast to really play about on. Sadly it’s not just the set that has been cut back in its transition to the touring production. The cast size too has been dramatically cut, where once there was a chorus line of leg kicking girls the tour brings just two who frantically run off stage and remerge to play another role with several quick changes. Likewise () is quite possibly the most overworked in the show as he plays opposite practically every principal character. Adam portrayal of the young Prince Herbert who falls for Lancelot is particularly entertaining displaying a wonderful high register to great comic effect. His dance as a nun is also very entertaining and as mentioned he continuously reappears on stage bringing a new character for the audience to enjoy. The ensemble work very hard to create a full stage of characters but unfortunately, and not through their best efforts, the real “bang” of the musical numbers falls a little short without a bigger team of performers.
Bonnie Langford makes an alternative Lady of the Lake from some of the larger than life predecessors of the role. Hannah Waddingham and Jodie Prenger are both bold and brashy performers who really know how to belt the part of the diva! It took some convincing for the pint sized Langford to win me over with her performance, but upon reflection she is arguably the biggest “diva” of the lot, and this is reflected in her rendition of “Diva’s Lament” What she lacks in belt, she surely makes up for in range, and there is something about her persona that has a natural ooze of theatrical star. Its unsurprising to find that her CV spills out across a full page in the programme with a vast range of credits, Langford is also very striking as she models the range of glittering attire.
The gawffs of laughter from the audience clearly represented an older clientel and I suspect that many come from the loyal army of fans who adore Spamalot and everything Eric Idle. The show has never been ashamed of bad gags, jokes that make you groan and songs that take a satirical look at musical theatre in general. “The Song that goes like this” helped the show become a success before many even saw the show, with societies and West End lovers choosing to perform this song at every given opportunity and cabaret evening.
Six years on from when the material was first performed some of the jokes feel a little dated, granted I wasn’t a huge fan of the films, but can appreciate that the show is enormous fun. However in the transition to the touring production in which act one is just 43 minutes, and I couldn’t believe I was standing outside the theatre at 9:24pm all done and dusted, it seems that so many corners have been cut. The panto-esque production, with star casting and simple choreography works well when done in excess, you’re able to fully immerse yourself in the barmy scenes of fish slapping and hot pant wearing gay disco when the stage is alive and full of a cast performing at you. This production feels a little rushed and before you get the chance to let go and go with it… its over.